Does An Author Need to Blog? Part 2

In my last post I wrote about how becoming a regular reader of author Carrie Snyder’s blog Obscure Can Lit Mama motivated me to buy her book, Girl Runner. Carrie wrote back to tell me that while she appreciates people purchasing her books because of reading her blog posts, that isn’t why she blogs. She says having a blog has been an important part of her development as writer, but she’s never regarded it as a marketing tool.

 Carrie thinks that would take the joy out of blogging for her. Contrary to what I’d assumed, Carrie’s publisher has nothing to do with her blog. It is a personal project. To quote Carrie, “I think writers should blog because they want to, not because they feel obligated to.”

According to L.L. Barkat Carrie is probably smart not to think of her blog as a marketing tool because Barakat believes blogging is a waste of time for writers if they are counting on their blogs to inspire book sales.  
In a post called “It’s Time For Writers to Stop Blogging”  Barkat says that while he thinks blogging is a great way for authors to learn discipline, gain experience and foster creative expression it is not a way to promote their writing. Blogging, he says, drains a writer’s energy and time and they’d be better off investing their time and energy in the writing projects they hope to complete for publication. Barkat recommends the use of Twitter and Facebook instead.  You can still get your message out with a lot less effort. 

Jane Friedman says some authors blog because they hope they will be able to turn their blog posts into a book.  “Don’t count on it,” says Friedman. Friedman claims you need the mind and heart of an entrepreneur to use your blog as a tool for publishing success and most authors don’t have that mindset. 

Joanna Penn says it is much easier to promote non-fiction with a blog but she doesn’t see blogging as a very useful marketing tool for fiction writers. 

Susan Laidlaw lists ten reasons why authors shouldn’t blog including the fact that it is addictive, there are no editors or critique partners to check work, it demystifies writers,  it causes them to spend too much time in front of the computer screen and essentially facilitates giving away content for free when writing is supposed to be providing an author with income. 

So does an author need to blog? I’ll explore that question from another angle in my next post on Vast Imaginations. 

In the mean time why not check out these top readership posts on my blog in the last year………

 Galileo’s Grocery List

What Does Your Mother Do?

De Ja Vu At the United Nations

MaryLou Driedger is a free lance writer with a long career as a newspaper columnist, curriculum writer and contributor to lifestyle, education and religious publications.

In All My Glory


A writing exercise from these prompt words: CAFFEINE, CURLERS, ENCYCLOPEDIA, TIDE, WARDROBE.
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I’m late. Did it again. Slept in. But I gotta have my caffeine, time or not. So I frantically flit around in my curlers—yeah–no hot irons or perm solution gonna wreck this head o’ hair. Yeah, so caffeine first, while I check my email.

No, gosh, no! Email #3 says ‘bring notes.’ Brilliant. My notes. The ones I forgot to write. And forgot to research. No winging it. Gah! Where’s the encyclopedia. I yank my curlers out, with a chunk of hair. No time to cry now. I rush to my wardrobe for an encyclopedia then remember I haven’t dressed yet–what the– I don’t keep encyclopedias in my wardrobe, and anyhow the only one I own is on my laptop.

Well I’m here now. I pull on rust capris and a pink tank shirt with tomato on it and cover it with a blue blazer. Good enough. I whip open my laptop again. My coffee’s cold. I glug it anyway and google Britannica online. Tides, tides—neap tides, whatever. I print it off, but the printer cord catches on the mug. Wet rust capris. Nice. Giraffe skin look, well that’s new.

I roll my eyes. Tides, wet keyboard. Some irony here. Now I’ve got tigers and tiles and tridents on my search page. Gah! I pull at my fake curls and melt as my monitor fades to black and there’s me reflected in all my slept-in glory.

Another day, another dollar. Actually not. I’m calling in sick.120722041610-woman-laptop-curlers-coffee-story-top

Christina’s motto is:
“Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?” (George Bernard Shaw)

When Criticism Bites–A Lesson from the Fish Bowl

Yesterday, while sifting through my Twitter feed I came across a discussion between bloggers regarding a recent article in The Guardian. The article outlined an author’s stalking of an online reviewer. As I read my jaw dropped—she didn’t. This can’t be real. No one would reaaa1ally do that, would they?

It got me thinking about how I’ll react to negative reviews. While I’m a first time author and I have yet to experience the heartache of a bad review, I do have experience in dealing with being in the public eye. Because of my husband’s work, we enjoy what I like to call ‘fame in a microcosm.’ People watch us.

Nineteen years ago when he first started, I had no idea how to handle the criticism that came our way–criticism about everything from the way I dress to what I make for dinner to how I raise my children to judgement of my motivations. I’ve been the target of gossip and had to sit and listen, and say nothing when people slammed someone I cared for deeply. Except, I’ve encountered this in real life and not online. Sometimes it’s even been from people I called friends, people I’d confided in. There was a time when I felt like it was destroying me, even a time when I wanted my husband out of that line of work, so that I didn’t have to deal with it anymore. I was afraid of what it would do to my children living in the midst of it. It took me to a really dark place.

And now, as I prepare to launch my first book, I also prepare for the criticism that will come with it. As certainly as the sun rises, it will come.

When you’re thrust into the public eye, this happens. It doesn’t make it okay, but you should know that it’s inevitable. I look at it this way—there has been no book in the history of books that has been universally loved and mine will be no different.

There are trolls out there. You’re not going to stop them and neither am I. Some people are like that. For some, feedback equals criticism, others seek attention, and still others hurt people to feel powerful. So don’t give them that power.

I’ve learned to focus on my supporters. Sometimes when I feel like lashing out, I think of those who have been encouraging. Those have been loyal friends. Those who have stood beside me through good and bad. Those are the people whose opinions really matter.

The other thing I’ve learned is to say to myself—I don’t care. I dress how I dress. I raise my children the way I believe is right. You can call me a bad mother, it wouldn’t be the first time, but I’ll continue on as I did before. If I want to make chicken for dinner
, it’s no one else’s business. You can like it or hate it. That’s up to you. I can’t control your opinion.

And it’s the same with my writing. I’ve already decided whose opinion matters–an decision every writer should make. But, then this also applies to good reviews. We can’t live from one positive word to the next, then die on every negative word. It hurts. I’m not going to say I’m not hurt when the criticism comes my way, but now I can withdraw myself from it, and give it only as much weight as it deserves.

If you enjoyed this article you might also like:

Handling Critique Without Melting Down

Who Should Not Critique Your Manuscript

Top Six Reasons Why Giving Birth is More Fun than Querying my First Novel

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Preliminary coverMelinda Friesen writes short stories and novels for teens. She’s learned that it can be tough living in a fish bowl, but also very rewarding. Her first book will be released November 22 from Rebelight Publishing Inc.

 

Melinda Friesen authored Enslavement, a young adult dystopian novel, released by Rebelight Publishing. When she’s not writing, Melinda works as marketing director and acquisitions editor at Rebelight Publishing Inc.

Make it Snappy – Writing a Just Right Book Blurb

Courtroom scene from the film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird
Courtroom scene from the film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird
A recent survey of all-time favourite books places Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird at the top. Personally, I’m happy with that ranking.  It’s a favourite of mine too.  I first read the book ages ago and I recall burning through the pages in a glorious ‘couldn’t put the book down’ reading that carried on into the wee hours. A few years ago, I reread the book, curious to see if time and maturity might have dimmed the warm glow I felt then.  Nope. Still wonderful and gripping.
I’m not sure how the book landed in my hands the first time. Word of mouth, I’m guessing, because it was on every top 10 list imaginable.  Which raises interesting questions:  If there hadn’t been such a buzz, would I have actually selected the book on my own?  How would I know it’s one I might want to read?choosing a book
You can see where I’m going with this. Like most people, I rely on book descriptions to help with the decision – those sparse blurbs on the back cover or inside flap or in the subject heading on Amazon, Chapters and other online sources.   Just for fun, here’s the book description for To Kill a Mockingbird (minus a couple of lines that mention its literary acclaim and would have been omitted in original copies). To Kill a Mockingbird
The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it….Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior – to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos…. This regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.
With my first novel for middle graders almost complete, my publisher is busy crafting its book description.   Unlike a synopsis or summary which might cover a full page or even several, book descriptions are snappy, short and  – I can testify to this because I’ve dabbled with a few – notoriously difficult to write.
From a number of online sources, here’s a list of ingredients well written book descriptions contain:
  • A hook. Grab the reader in the first sentence. Make it a standout line that not only sums up the book, but compels people to read on.
  • An emotional connection. How will the book make readers feel? Is it a tear-jerker or laugh-filled? Spine-chilling or nail-biting?
  • The payoff. What will readers get out of the book? Will they be happier, wiser, more compassionate or just plain entertained? Why?
  • A description. What is the story about? Just a few lines, enough so readers have a sense of the story line.
  • Characters. Who are the major players?
  • Problem. What big problem, dilemma, obstacle, conflict stands in the way? Not small stuff here, but the overriding issue.
  • Cliffhanging conclusion.   Make your readers so curious, so intrigued, and so excited they’ll want to read on.
 A pretty tall order, right? Even taller when you consider how much space you have.  One source put the max word count at 150.  Others said less.  As a reference point, the description for To Kill a Mockingbird quoted above registers at 82 words, and not a single one wasted.
to-kill-a-mockingbird2
Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Mary Badham as Scout
Other posts you might enjoy:
Titles – Where Less is More
Setting As Character – the ‘Breaking Bad’ Way
He Says, She Says – The Power of Dialogue

Larry Verstraete (www.larryverstraete.com) is the author of 13 non-fiction books for youngsters. His middle grade novel, Missing in Paradise, is scheduled for release by Rebelight Publishing Inc. in November.

 

For Larry Verstraete, an award-winning author of books for young people, writing is all about the journey and often the perfect writing storm occurs when high adventure, science and history converge. An advocate for literacy, Larry often visits schools and libraries to share his passion.

A Blog? Does It Matter?

carrie snyder thin air festivalI heard author Carrie Snyder talking about her book The Juliet Stories at the Thin Air Writers’ Festival in Winnipeg a number of years ago.  The woman who introduced Carrie mentioned Carrie’s blog called Obscure Can Lit Mama.  The name intrigued me and so I jotted it down and looked it up when I got home.  After reading a few posts I was hooked.  

Carrie is an excellent writer. She is passionate about long distance running, has four children (three with the most adorable curly red hair) teaches creative writing at a university and reads voraciously. It is always interesting to check in on her and find out what she’s been doing and thinking.  Her four children are heavily involved in sports and music and a myriad of other things and reading about how Carrie keeps all those balls in the air- parenting, housework, cooking, teaching, writing, running and her relationship with her husband makes for pretty interesting reading.  She is also a good photographer and takes great pictures of nature and her family. 

girl-runnerThe last while however what I’ve enjoyed most as a writer is following the progress of Carrie’s novel Girl Runner which just came out this fall.  Via her blog I went along to England with her on a research trip, waited with bated breath while her agent shopped her book to publishers, slogged with her through endless rounds of editing, shared in her indecision when she almost changed professions to midwifery because she wasn’t sure she could make a living as a writer, savored her happiness when her book landed publishing contracts in many different countries and was excited when her book launched and was nominated for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Prize. 

Of course I immediately downloaded Carrie’s book Girl Runner onto my Kindle when it became available and had a hard cover copy sent to my sister-in-law who is passionate about running. Would I have done that if I hadn’t been following her blog? Probably not. 

So is it important for an author to have a blog? Carrie Snyder and her publisher probably think so because just before her book came out her blog got a whole new design with special sections for promoting her book and her writing career.

In my next post I’ll further explore the question of whether an author needs a blog.

If you enjoyed this post you might also like……

Writers Retreat

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MaryLou Driedger is just beginning to write fiction and non-fiction for children after working as a teacher, newspaper columnist and free-lance journalist for thirty years. She also blogs at What Next?

MaryLou Driedger is a free lance writer with a long career as a newspaper columnist, curriculum writer and contributor to lifestyle, education and religious publications.
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